Finding – in 2009 WA held a referendum on daylight saving. A one-box ballot paper similar to the Federal referendum ballot was used and the formality rules on ticks and crosses were exactly the same. Out of 1,148,853 ballot papers, just 199 were marked with a single cross and declared informal, a rate of just 0.02%.
And in addition – as I explain later in the post, the ticks and crosses issue arises because parliament hasn’t acted to clarify the law.
At ‘The Voice’ referendum, how many people will be confused by the referendum ballot paper? The instructions are very clear to write “Yes” or “No”, but how many are going to be confused and instead use a tick or a cross?
This has become an issue because the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act states that where a voter has not written Yes or No, the ballot paper will be assessed for intent.
Unlike NSW electoral law, the Referendum Act doesn’t provide specific guidance on how to deal with ticks and crosses. The Referendum Act was amended earlier this year to deal with ballots marked with ‘Y’ or ‘N’, but everything else is still left to assessment of intent.
On the Australian Electoral Commission’s legal advice, the intent provision means a tick is a sign of agreement and will be counted as a Yes, but a cross is ambiguous in intent and will be treated as informal. This is the same ruling that applied at four referendums in 1988 and two in 1999.
Parliament could have amended the Act at any time in the last 35 years to address ticks and crosses, as NSW has done four times in the same period. But the politicians haven’t addressed it and now some attack the Electoral Commissioner, despite him simply applying the law as written by politicians, and despite using the same rules as applied by commissioners going back to the 1980s.
This is a ridiculous figure in my experience. Due to preferential voting, Australia is devoid of ballot papers with instructions to use a tick or a cross.Read More »How many Voters mark Referendum Ballot Papers with a Cross? Not many based on evidence.